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General

Macau's historic centre was added to the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site list in 2005, underlining its strategic and cultural importance over centuries. The mixture of colonial Portuguese architecture sits beautifully alongside its East-Asian flair. Macau's three islands were originally separate, there is now a two and a half-kilometre (one and a half-mile) long bridge and highway to link the three regions together. Macao might be small, but it is well-developed in the tourism industry, has numerous parks and attractions that cater to the millions of visitors each year.

Parts of Macau offer serenely traditional countryside, ancestral Chinese villages and pine-forested hills. Much of 'old' Macau is preserved on its islands, Taipa and Coloane, including fishing boat building yards, colonial mansions, Chinese temples and floating fishing communities. Yet Macau is now famed for enticing visitors with its glitzy new Vegas-style casino resorts, both on the Macau Peninsula and on the still under-construction Cotai Strip, a sliver of reclaimed land joining the islands of Taipa and Coloane.

Macau Peninsula

Historically, culturally and economically, the peninsula is where it is happening. Its central focus is the busy Largo do Senado. This very Mediterranean town square is surrounded by some of Macau's most famous buildings, including the Leal Senado and the church of São Domingo. The church, built in the 17th century and renovated in 2002, is one of the most beautiful religious buildings in Macau. A Museum of Sacred Art, on three floors of the renovated belfry, is home to 300 works of sacred art illustrating the history of the Catholic church in Asia.

Shopping is a key element of central city life. St Dominic's Market fills the alleyways off the Senate Square. Other roads leading off the square are full of shops selling everything from factory overruns to the latest designer gear. Gold shops by the dozen line the main thoroughfare running between the square and the Leal Senado.

Overlooking the busy town centre from their hillside perches are the historic Monte Fort and the ever-impressive Ruinas de Sao Paulo. The Museum of Macau, located within the fort enclosure, is great for some more of that essential Macanese history.

Sandwiched between the Ruinas de Sao Paulo and the inner harbour are streets teeming with furniture shops selling Chinese antiques and reproductions, and enticing visitors from all over with made-to-order services and bargain prices.

Almost hidden in the shadow of the imposing hillside ruins are Santo Antonio Church and the nearby Old Protestant Cemetery, which is the final resting place of many a famous soul. Right next door are the peaceful Cameos Gardens.


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